28 October 2021 Whitby Swing Bridge Plaque

We would like to say a huge thank you to Rob Hodgson, a member of the Civic Society, who spotted this plaque for sale online recently.

swing bridge

The plaque, it was alleged, used to be fixed to the swing bridge in the town. Rob bought the plaque and had it refurbished, all at his expense, and donated it to the Civic Society.

Val Appleton carried out some research on the plaque for us and was able to determine that the current swing bridge was commissioned by the Whitby Urban District Council following discussions with the County Council. An agreement was reached that the District Council would acquire the old swing bridge and within 10 years replace it with a bridge not less than 23 feet wide and of sufficient strength to carry a traction engine weighing 15 tons.

The bridge was designed by J Mitchell Moncrieff of Newcastle and was in fact constructed by Heenan & Froude Ltd, originally of Manchester and Worcester (source: The History of Whitby Swing Bridge and its Predecessors,  John Freeman).

We have also been told that some major renovation works were undertaken during the 1970s when the plaque may have been “lost”.

If anyone has any further information on the plaque we would be very happy to hear from you. We hope, in due course, it may be re-instated on the bridge or at least be put on view somewhere in the town.

A big thank you to Rob once again for bringing home a part of the town’s history and heritage. 


21 September St Ninian's Church, Baxtergate

Please find an invitation to a public meeting to discuss the future of this historic church, Tuesday 5 October, 4.30pm:

How can the local community save the historic and unique St Ninian’s Church on Baxtergate, Whitby?

St Ninian's is one of the last remaining examples of the craftsmanship that went into the building of Captain Cook's ships. The same local men who built the ships built the church, using masts as supporting pillars and great baulks of sawn timber for the roof. They put ships’ lockers in the vestry to serve as cupboards. Known originally as the New Chapel, it was built in 1776-78, within a decade of the launching of all four of the Whitby cat-built barks used for Cook's voyages. The plain brick frontage of the building, as viewed from Baxtergate, masks the fact that this is a wooden structure: clearly the work of ship's carpenters. As the English Heritage Grade II* listing notes:  The oak posts supporting the gallery were supplied by a mast maker of Whitby, Isaac Allanson with men from his yards deployed on the church when they could be spared. It is a Whitby church, unique as Whitby is, mirroring its achievements.

In typical Whitby fashion, the church was independently built and owned by thirty townsfolk who subscribed £64 each towards the cost, which entitled them to a free pew. The original group of 30 Proprietors included the shipbuilder Thomas Fishburn, responsible for three of Cook’s ships; Thomas Millner who owned the Earl of Pembroke before she was acquired by the Navy and renamed HMS Bark Endeavour; and Nathaniel Cholmley, the Lord of the Manor. In 1778 they obtained a licence for worship from the Archbishop of York but selected their own minister and managed all the affairs of the church until 1873, when the Rector of Whitby agreed to appoint one of his curates to minister there. The Church of England ended this agreement in 1998, since when the church has had a somewhat unsettled history.  A recent unauthorised attempt to put the building up for sale, for conversion to commercial premises has been stopped. 

The church is still owned in trust by the heirs of the original thirty Proprietors, but very few can now be traced.  St Ninian's is the only remaining  proprietary church in Yorkshire and probably one of only four remaining in the whole of the UK.   We believe that many in the local community will have views and ideas for the future of this building, which is a unique survivor of so much of Whitby's history.  Any information you may have concerning the Proprietors and the church, or any advice and help would be very much appreciated.

We now need to decide on the future of this Grade II* listed building, in urgent need of repair. If possible, we would very much like to see this building at the centre of community life in Whitby, in use for the benefit of the community as well as continuing as a Christian resource; standing for the independent spirit of Whitby.

The remaining Proprietors and Friends of St Ninian’s invite interested members of the local community to a meeting at the church on Tuesday 5th October at 4.30pm


15 August 2021 Flowergate Chapel

Today was a sad day for the Flowergate Chapel, also known as the Flowergate Unitarian Chapel, built in 1720. It held its last service for the foreseeable future or maybe forever. For a considerable time there has been a huge effort to raise funds to repair, maintain and restore the building. A bid was made to the Whitby Town Deal Board showing how the building could have multi purpose community use as well as being a place of worship. It was felt that it stood a good chance of success. However, that was not to be and it was with great sadness that Margaret Kirk led the final service today, Sunday 15th August.

Margaret thanked many people for their efforts but gave special thanks to the Civic Society’s Vice Chairman Neil Swannick who has given invaluable support and worked very hard over a considerable period of time assisting in the preparation of a report for submission to the Town DealThere were two people who also deserved very special thanks for their time and commitment to the church for a considerable number of years – Eileen and Arthur Brewster. They have been an important part of the churchhave looked after it, cared for it and carried out repairs to it, probably for more years than they care to remember. Eileen’s parents were also a big part of the church many years ago.   

Margaret also gave thanks to Sandra Smith for her work researching the Lit and Phil records in connection with Francis Haydn Williams. Betty Bayliss of Whitby Civic Society was also mentioned for her part including the Chapel in Heritage Open Days. Margaret also mentioned that Betty, on behalf of the Civic Society, has also recently organised a tribute to Francis Haydn Williams in the form a blue plaque, which will be placed outside the Chapel in September. He was the Unitarian Minister from 1888 to 1910. He was an unusual Minister, the manner in which he expressed and practised his Whitby ministry caused him to be described as: troubled, troublesome, passionate, crusading, fiery, difficult, driven, highly vexed, villain, hero, obscure eccentric, dreamer and saint. He took direct action against what he perceived to be social injustice to the poorer classes and he didn’t care who he crossed or what people thought. He was a formidable character.

Today’s service was as a very sad and emotional occasion to be part of.

Val Appleton

Watch a virtual tour of the Chapel here

May 2021 - Letter to Scarborough Borough Council

Whitby Civic Society has written to the Borough Council to object to the proposed sale of four public open spaces in Whitby. We understand that SBC is under external pressure to meet new homes targets and to generate new revenue; that there are few brownfield sites left in the town; and that a failure to find urban sites will mean further building on open land.

Nevertheless, we believe that we should protect existing green spaces in the town. Even before the pandemic it was widely recognised that green spaces generate important benefits for health and well-being, and provide a valuable habitat for insects and bird life; they also aid water absorption and help mitigate flooding. SBC’s Local Plan emphasises the importance of green spaces, and Policy HC 14 sets out clear criteria derived from the NPPF which proposed redevelopment of green spaces must meet: “Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land . . . should not be built on unless (a) an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings, or land to be surplus to requirements”.

No such assessment is publicly available, and the Authority has not carried out a review of green spaces in the town since 2014. At that time its Green Space Audit found that Whitby was less well provided than elsewhere in the Borough (we have 5.6 hectares per 1,000 inhabitants as compared with 7.4 hectares per 1,000 for the Borough). There is then no evidence that existing green space is surplus to requirements.

The legislative requirement to sell the land for the “best possible price” will attract developers who are reluctant to deliver the promised levels of affordable homes. The benefits of density are lost when a high proportion is used for second homes or holiday lets, and past experience suggests that even where developers deliver the volume of affordable housing promised, there is at present no barrier to these being used as second homes or holiday lets.

Three of the sites are designated local public green spaces and the Authority is under a duty to protect them. The site at Spital Bridge forms part of an important corridor for wildlife; the two sites on Rievaulx Road (are relatively small, but are valued by residents as they provide a space for children’s play, informal recreation, and dog-walking. Further, the golf course land at Sandsend Road, while not defined as a public open space, provides much-valued sporting activities for club members and their guests.

While Whitby Civic Society agrees on the need for additional affordable housing in Whitby, we very much doubt that there is a persuasive case for using these particular sites for development, and urge the Authority to protect these important open spaces for public use.


May 2021 Thomas Blenky - A Puzzle

The Chairman of Scarborough CAMRA raised a query, sparked by the recent TV series The Terror, in which Thomas Blenky (aka Blanky) sailed on the fateful expedition to find the North West Passage. In Michael Palin's book, The Erebus, there is reference to Thomas running a pub in Whitby. Initial research doesn't reveal which one. Thomas was born in 1800 or 1804, records are contradictory on this. He married Esther Wilson in 1834 and died between 1845 & 1848. Which pub was he licensee of?
Answers on a postcard as follows:

Thomas Blenkey married Esther Wilson 2 January 1834, St Mary’s Church Whitby. He was a bachelor and Mariner and Esther was a widow. Esther’s first husband was James Wilson, her maiden name was Esther Walker. In 1828 Wilson had been the licensee of the Admiral Lord Nelson, also known as the Lord Nelson (17 Pier, now Pier Road). He died in 1832. Esther was listed as trading from the Lord Nelson in 1834. As she married Thomas in 1834 we can assume this is how Thomas has been linked with a pub. By 1837 the licensee was someone different.

Nelson Inn Pier Road

The Lord Nelson shown as the Nelson Flag Inn circa 1925

From the perspective of the photo and the location of the bandstand on the right, the pub was probably sited where the Pleasure Island Adventure Golf amusement arcade now is. The Inn closed circa 1936.

Nelson Inn Pier Road

The Nelson Flag Inn circa 1932

An alternative theory but less convincing comes from Colin Waters History of Whitby’s Pubs, 1992, which has only one name remotely similar. Thomas Blenkhorn was landlord of the Lifeboat Tavern on Haggersgate in 1837, gone by 1840. The owner was Mrs Archer.

The citation regarding the Lifeboat is possibly undermined by the proviso that it is not known if it existed in its own right. As one of the addresses is listed as 'Pier' and that is the same as the Nelson it could be the same pub despite also being possibly on Haggersgate, although it is possible that he ran the Lifeboat after the Lord Nelson as that would fit in with the dates.

 Lifeboat Tavern


May 2021 - Responses from Scarborough Borough Council about matters raised by Whitby Civic Society

Dilapidated condition of the ponds at Upper Baldby - response awaited. Our correspondence in full, below:

These are part of a plot of land that was the subject of a planning application in June 2017 (17/01248/FL), which was permitted with conditions on 16 March 2018. One condition specifically required the applicant to provide details of provisions to be made “for the restoration and enhancement of the ponds”, and maintaining the ponds thereafter. The Authority accepted the condition as discharged in August 2018 (18/00834/COND), after the Council’s Ecologist and Biodiversity Officer confirmed that the information provided by the applicant was acceptable.

As you probably know, the ponds are near to a public footpath, and a number of our members have contacted us to express their disappointment over the condition of the ponds. The stonework has not been secured and individual stones are falling into the ponds and the earth banks are crumbling (photographs attached). As the ponds have been fenced off it is not possible for volunteers to clear litter from them. I therefore believe that the work has not been delivered as promised.

As you said in your decision  letter in August 2018, the ponds offer a visual amenity to residents, have historical and heritage value, and provide a habitat for biodiversity. I would be very grateful if you could investigate the situation, and if need be take appropriate action to enforce your decision.

Fish and chip Baxtergate -  I contacted the owner about concerns raised by the Civic Society about the stone and other materials seen in a skip outside.  The owner promptly advised that the works comprised removing relatively modern shop fittings and flooring from the premises in order to renew these whilst lockdown provided the opportunity to do so.  The works involved stripping back the modern fittings to expose the original fabric with new fittings and flooring inserted to re-conceal the original fabric, which was left in situ.  He advised that the building materials in the skip comprised fill material that had been used to make up the internal floor level in the relatively recent past, rather than being part of the fabric of the building which had been demolished as part of the refurbishment works.  We were provided with photographs of the works, as the owner had documented these for his own records.

White Horse Yard – An enforcement case is open and an officer has undertaken an initial site visit. The enforcement investigation is ongoing relating to the introduction of a timber decked area. I am afraid due to confidentiality I am unable to provide any more details.

Airy Hill Manor – I have been in discussion with Marcus Whitmore (Area Planning Manager) who has been dealing with this case. We both agree that as no alterations to the Listed Building have been undertaken and the hot tub simply stands upon the existing raised terrace then Listed Building Consent is not required. Similarly, the hot tub is considered not to be ‘development’ and is instead a chattel, and this means that planning permission was not required. The Local Planning Authority have no powers to require the removal of the hot tub.

Grape Lane – I am very aware of the presence of street clutter, the presence of unauthorised signage and the use of unsympathetic colours on some of the shopfronts in the vicinity. Prior to the first lockdown I had intended to discuss these matters with the Planning Manager but this didn’t happen. As the covid restrictions relax it is my intention to revisit the matter and discuss it with the Planning Manager in the coming weeks. I will of course provide an update on any progress following these discussions.  


March 2021 96 Church Street replacement windows

We were contacted recently when the much loved, bow fronted shopfront windows, No.96 Church Street were removed.

96 Church Street

Scarborough Borough Council's Conservation Officer Stephen Gandolfi was quickly on the scene and reported thus... "In this rare instance the new units replacing the existing are absolutely identical as far as the new units are of the same timber, design and proportions as the existing units. In addition to this, the new units were actually made in the same workshop and by the same Whitby Joiner who made the existing ones back in circa 1975. The problem the owners have experienced recently is an increase in the bowing of glazing bars which has led to the panes of glass in the units cracking and becoming insecure. Whilst the owners have undertaken many repairs and inserted new panes they felt it was the right time to replace the units in their entirety in preparation for their reopening in the coming months.  

 Replacement windows

Replacement windows

On this occasion (providing they paint the new units in the same colour) Listed Building Consent is not required as the change does not affect the heritage significance of the building. I am confident that the owners are responsible custodians of their building, in fact their commitment to replace the units on an absolute like for like basis should be commended."



18 February 2021 Proposed cycling improvements in Whitby

Have your say and help to develop proposed cycling improvements in Whitby and Harrogate which will make use of Department for Transport funding to deliver new cycling infrastructure. Find out more, and complete the quick and easy survey here https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/NYCCATFFacebook/

The consultation will run from 9 - 23 February 2021.


Whitby Civic Society Annual General Meeting

This will take place on Monday 22 February, 10.30am on Zoom. Everyone is welcome to attend though only members are eligible to vote. Please find a copy of the Annual Report 2020 


10 December 2020 Proposals for pedestrianisation Whitby Swing Bridge

You will no doubt be aware of the proposals to pedestrianise Whitby Swing Bridge for a trial period. The proposals are part of an ambitious new project to enhance the economy and tourism in the town. If approved, the Swing Bridge would be closed to traffic between 10.30am and 4pm daily for a trial period beginning April 2021. The trial would also include the pedestrianisation of Grape Lane; New Quay Road, St Ann's Staith, Haggersgate, Pier Road and Khyber Pass would become access only zones during these times.

Whitby Town Deal Board has secured £400,000 of fast-track Government funding to pay for the infrastructure needed to conduct the trial which would be implemented by North Yorkshire County Council highways team. A key element of the scheme would be signage advising of the trial and redirecting traffic approaching the town centre, replacing the temporary signage that is currently used for closures. You can read the detailed proposals here.

The deadline for comments is December 24. There is a link in the document to have your say or you can email Area3.whitby@northyorks.gov.uk or post to North Yorkshire County Council, Whitby Highways Office, Discovery Way, Whitby, YO22 4PZ.


December 12 2020 Ruswarp Church war memorials update

Whitby Civic Sociey has made some suggestions for relocation of the war memorials from Ruswarp church pending its imminent sale. We are working with Whitby Town Council and Ruswarp village hall trustees to determine how these important, historic artefacts may be preserved. We hope the marble tablet can be housed in the village hall and that Whitby Museum will be able to take the bullet pierced cross and brass plaque.

However, due to its size the Rood beam is proving problematic. We suggested the entrance to Whitby hospital but this was ruled out at a recent hospital meeting. If anyone can suggest a public building where this could be placed we would love to hear from you. 

Rood Screen


November 28 2020 Scarborough Borough Council Visitor Economy Strategy & Destination Plan

The above was recently out to consultation. It is a critical policy document for the future development of the town. You can read Whitby Civic Society's response here: Visitor Economy Strategy WCS response


November 17 2020 The Museums of Whitby join forces

Please find the press release announcing a new colloaboration between the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby Museum, Whitby Abbey, Museum of Whitby Jet, RNLI Museum and Pannett Art Gallery: Museums of Whitby


November 16 2020 Battery Parade

Whitby Civic Society has written to the planning authorities following the deterioration of this important historic area of Whitby. Read the letter here: Battery Parade

Battery Parade

Photo courtesy of Fiona Clewlow


November 16 2020 Scarborough Borough Council Visitor Economy Strategy & Destination Plan

The above is currently out to consultation, it's a large document though critical for the future development of the town so probably worth the time spent. Closing date for comments is 20 November. You can read it and comment here.


5 November 2020 Review of Scarborough Borough Council Local Plan: Whitby Civic Society's response

The Local Plan is an important document for local areas. It provides a framework on how future housing, economic and public health policy and investment decisions are made. Whitby Civic Society's Planning group therefore spent a long time considering the review and potential opportunities and implications for Whitby. Our response can be found here: 

Scarborough Borough Council Local Plan response from Whitby Civic Society 


27 October 2020 Review of Scarborough Borough Council Local Plan  

The current Local Plan is now 3 years old and is currently under review. The consultation on the first stage of the review (the Issues and Options stage) runs until 5pm on 6 November 2020 so there is still time to submit your views. The Issues and Options document, Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report and the Call for Sites Form (that trips off the tongue) can all be viewed and comments made on the local authority's Consultation Portal or can all be downloaded at  https://scarborough-consult.objective.co.uk/kse/event/35440/section/.  The Whitby Town Council meeting that discussed the review can be viewed on the Town Council's Facebook page facebook.com/WhitbyTCyou will need to scroll down a bit to find it. The meeting on 29 September heard a presentation on the review which offers a good insight of the issues.


25 October 2020 Planning White Paper, response from Civic Voice

For a number of years, civic societies have made it clear to Civic Voice that we should raise the profile and influence of civic societies within the planning framework to give us a more meaningful, influential voice. In 2019, 72% of civic societies (based on 167 responses) said that civic societies should be given formal status in the planning system. This increased to 82% in 2020 (based on 145 responses). Civic Voice is asking us whether we would support such a proposal. 

Whitby Civic Society is minded to support the proposal. A more formal role would mean that the planning authorities must consult us on new applications rather than leaving it to us to spot the relevant ones. The down side is that it could generate a lot of extra work for which we do not currently have the capacity. The up side is that the planning authority would be required to take us more seriously, and given the Government’s planned changes to the planning system, it would help to ensure that communities retain at least some voice. We might argue that civic societies are statutory consultees only on applications where they have some expertise for example in the Conservation Area or in respect of listed buildings, although this might introduce an unwanted complexity into proceedings. We would welcome your views.


October 2020 Robert Jenrick, the Housing Minister, announces next steps to put beauty and design at heart of planning system

The Government has published further information about its planning reforms and its intentions to put beauty and design at the heart of the planning system. Read about it here.

Heritage adviser Charles O’Brien said, "I am delighted to have been appointed to advise the Secretary of State on the programme to improve and extend the Local Lists of important buildings and places in England. The best way to protect the heritage we value is to identify what matters most to our communities and share our understanding and appreciation of them."

This supports Whitby Civic Society's current heritage project that is encouraging everyone to highlight buildings which could be added to Whitby’s Local Heritage List. 

More good news is Permitted development homes to meet space standardsNew homes delivered through permitted development rights will have to meet space standards which we understand will include holiday homes.


18-20 September 2020 Heritage Open Days

This should have been the weekend of Heritage Open Days, one of the most popular events in Whitby Civic Society's annual programme. We were severly constrainedl this year, however, please see here the virtual programme that we put together.

Saloon and pleasure groundsA Frank Meadow Sutcliffe photo of the Saloon and the bandstand, courtesy of Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society 

25 July 2020 Green Homes Grant Voucher

From September 2020 homeowners are able to apply for a £5,000 Green Homes Grant voucher to pay for the installation of energy saving home improvements. This is part of a new government £3 billion grant scheme to help the UK meet climate change goals.

Whitby Civic Society's response:

News of the Green Homes Grant is very welcome, particularly in these uncertain times. It will be especially helpful to those on low incomes, and to those living in older properties, who often find the cost of energy savings to be eye-wateringly high.

Whitby has a large number of older properties and income levels that are well below the national average. If your home is in the Conservation Area, or is a listed building, replacing windows with double glazing will involve the property owner in applying for planning consent. In this case, property owners need to think about the design of the new windows. Luckily, there is a wide range of heritage windows on the market, including those with upvc frames designed to mimic wood. And always check the credentials and experience of the builders first! It is to be hoped that property owners embrace the new scheme, and so help to meet the challenges of the climate emergency. At the same time, we need to be sure that any changes do not damage the character and appearance of our historic town. 

More informaion can be found here.


Victoria Spa Well House

Whitby Civic Society in its current guise celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021 though its roots go back further. During this time a lot of material has accumulated which for now is stored in the website archive. If you don't find what you are looking for then please ask.